It isn’t uncommon to hear every second person you meet say “I am on a diet”, but how many people actually know the basic composites of the food that constitute diets?
To live and lead a healthy life we need to consciously eat foods that give our body the essential nutrients it needs to nourish and energize. These also play a very important role in marinating normal body functions, physical activity and our overall health.
To do this, our body requires different nutrients in varying proportions so as to maintain proper functions. Nutritious food is therefore necessary to lead a healthy life & to sustain activity.
What do you mean by the Recommended Dietary Allowances or Intake (RDA/RDI)?
The Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) are estimates of nutrients to be consumed daily to ensure the requirements of all individuals in a given population.
To ensure that your body is fit and healthy at all times, it is important to have all the essential nutrients in your regular dietary regime in the amounts recommended for your age, gender and physical activity.
A Balanced Diet can be defined as one which contains different types of foods from all food groups in such quantities and proportions that the needs for all the nutrients are adequately met and a small extra allowance is made as a margin of safety.
So then what is a nutritious diet?
Various factors which affect our body’s needs, for different nutrients include age, sex, activity levels and also the body weight, height and composition i.e. the body physique.
Apart from these even the climatic conditions, body growth, physiological & stress levels play an important role. These all influence the body’s needs for various nutrients.
Dietary intake lower or higher than the body requirements can lead to under-nutrition (protein energy malnutrition or any deficiency diseases) or over-nutrition (eg. overweight, obesity) respectively.
The essential nutrients in your diet
An adequate diet is the one which provides you with a basket of food ingredients from all the food groups which caters to all the nutritional requirements of the human body.
Carbohydrates, fats and proteins are macronutrients (constitute a major portion of your diet) and are the Energy-yielding nutrients. Vitamins and minerals are the micronutrients (constitute a minor yet grave portion of your diet).
Carbohydrates are either simple or complex, and are major sources of energy in all human diets. They provide energy of 4 Kcal/g. About 50-60% of calories are derived from carbohydrates.
Simple carbohydrates, glucose and fructose, are found in fruits, vegetables and honey, sucrose in sugar and lactose in milk. Complex carbohydrates are in the form of starches in cereals, millets, pulses (whole grains) and root vegetables.
Proteins are important macronutrients as they serve as the building blocks in the body.
Proteins perform a wide range of functions especially for repairing worn-out, broken muscles and tissues. They provide energy (4 Kcal/g). They are used as a source of energy, but only in the cases of injury, starvation, and malnutrition. Protein is found in grains, milk, eggs, dried beans, peas and lentils, meat poultry and fish. 15-20% of calories should come from protein.
Protein requirements vary with age, health status, clinical condition and levels of stress. The requirements increase during periods of pregnancy and lactation, by growing infants and children, during episodes of injury. Animal proteins are of high biological value v/s plant or vegetable proteins.
Fats are a concentrated source of energy providing 9 Kcal/g. About 15% of our daily calories should be obtained by way of fat.
Dietary fats are derived from two sources:-
- Invisible Fats- present in plant and animal foods.
- Visible Fats- added fats and oils (cooking oil, butter, ghee and vanaspati).
The type and quantity of fat in the daily diet influences the level of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood
- Contribute to healthy skin, proper growth and health cell membranes.
- Fat also provides transport for the fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K).
Adults need to be made aware so as to restrict intake of saturated fat (butter, ghee and hydrogenated fats) and cholesterol (red meat, eggs, organ meat) and incorporate healthier fat options such as lean cuts of meat, egg whites, tofu etc as excess of these substances could lead to being overweight then leading to obesity, diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease (CVD).
Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamins are basically chemical compounds which are required by the body in small amounts.
Vitamins are essential for numerous body processes and for maintenance of the structure of skin, bone, nerves, eye, brain, blood and mucous membrane.
Vitamins can either be water soluble or fat soluble.
- Water soluble Vitamins are the ones which are easily excreted via the urine. Vitamin C, and the B-complex vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pyridoxine, folic acid and cyanocobalamin are water-soluble.
- Fat soluble Vitamins are the ones which are easily stored in the body. Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat-soluble.
Minerals are inorganic elements found in body fluids and tissues. To mention we have Macro and Micro minerals.
- Macro-minerals- the ones of grave importance are sodium, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and sulphur.
- Micro-minerals- the ones required in miniscule quantities yet of extreme relevance are zinc, copper, selenium, molybdenum, fluorine, cobalt, chromium and iodine are micro-minerals.
Vitamins & Minerals are required for maintaining the quality of hair, skin, nails, integrity of the blood and tissues.
Dietary fiber delays and slows the absorption of carbohydrates and fats and increases the satiety value.
Fiber reduces the load of glucose and lipids in blood and increase the bulk of the stools.
It provides early satiety i.e. fullness to the system. The cut off is about 17g/100calories as per ICMR. Examples of fiber are whole grains and cereals, vegetables, and fruits with peels.
H20 – two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen. This substance also known as water, is one of the most essential elements to health
Water makes up more than two thirds of human body weight. The human brain is made up of 95% water, blood is 82% and lungs 90%. A mere 2% drop in our body’s water supply can trigger signs of dehydration. All the cell and organ functions that make up our entire anatomy and physiology depend on water for their functioning.
Some of the functions of water in the human body:
- Water regulates body temperature.
- Transports nutrients and oxygen to the body.
- Helps regulate our metabolism.
- Detoxifies our organs.
- Helps our organs to absorb nutrients better.
“Good Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity-World Health Organisation-1948”.